Photographers' Blog

One year from that day

March 7, 2012

By Toru Hanai

It will soon be one year from that day – March 11, 2011.

Greetings among friends who meet after a long absence begins with, “Where and what were you doing on March 11?”

On March 11, 2011, I was photographing Prime Minister Naoto Kan during a committee session at the Parliament building in Tokyo.

At 2:46 p.m. the world started to shake really slowly.

I felt fear as the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck, not only because of the intensity of the shaking but also the duration of it.

I was absorbed as I continued to take pictures of the prime minister reacting to the quake.

Two minutes of the building shaking made it very difficult to capture him in a frame. I watched as the chandeliers shook. I felt conflicted on whether I should run.

I did not see the tsunami directly on March 11, 2011 but I obtained photographs from a source in Miyako, Iwate prefecture. One image showing a giant black wave flowing over a five meter seawall reminded me of the fear and surprise that I felt as I watched the same scene filmed on TV.

In northern Miyako city’s Taro district there was a 10 meter high tsunami wall with a total length of 2,400 meters, the biggest in Japan. The city’s inhabitants called it “the Great Wall” and trusted it.

Clearly the tsunami exceeded “the Great Wall”.

There were many tsunami victims in this district because they put too much confidence in “the Great Wall” and didn’t evacuate.

I went to all the same places from where the tsunami was photographed. As I stood there, I was overwhelmed with the unbelievable sense of the tsunami attack.

We must not forget that there are many victims between the two photographs that we show in these combination images.

I am happy if these photographs are used for that.

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